James simply dazzling in defeat

Ohio phenom scores 34, lights up Capital Classic

April 18, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Just 24 hours after Michael Jordan ended his legendary ride atop the NBA, the curtain came down on the high school career of a player tabbed as his heir apparent.

And like he has done every other time he has been under the bright lights this season, LeBron James simply dazzled.

James, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, poured in 34 points, scoring on an array of crowd-pleasing dunks, high-flying drives and three-point shots in last night's 30th annual Capital Classic high school national all-star game.

James' Black Team lost, 107-102, to the Silver Team before 18,424 at MCI Center in a result that was inconsequential to the last game of one of the most celebrated high school careers ever.

"The best for me is being out on the court," said James. "I feel like the court is my home, my second home. ... The worst is I can't play this game 24-7. I've got to go to school - right now. That's the worst part about it. I love this game. There's nothing I would trade it for."

The Most Valuable Player of last month's McDonald's All-American Game and EA Sports Roundball Classic, James shared MVP honors with the Silver Team's Shannon Brown last night, becoming the first high school player to win MVP in three all-star games.

Brown, a 6-3 guard out of Proviso East High School (Maywood, Ill.) and bound for Michigan State, scored 27 points on 12-for-17 shooting for the Silver Team. Wake Forest-bound point guard Chris Paul added 18 points, and Dion Harris (Michigan) contributed 14 points as six Silver Team players scored in double figures.

The Black Team got 16 points from Linas Kleiza, the Montrose Christian (Rockville) senior who was honored as Washington's Mr. Basketball at halftime.

But the story was James, who didn't shoot extremely well - he was 13-for-30 from the field - but did flash his all-around game with 12 rebounds and six assists to go along with his 34 points.

"Two things that separate him from other players on the high school level are one, his work ethic - the other day in practice he was super intense, did all of the drills - and secondly, his ability to make other people better, so I think he had those two intangibles," said Black Team coach Kevin Boyle, the coach of St. Patrick's High School in Elizabeth, N.J.

James, the likely No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft - though he has yet to confirm that the NBA is his next destination and did say that if he went to college, he has narrowed his choices to North Carolina, Florida and Michigan State - won Gatorade High School Player of the Year honors for the second straight year and led his St. Vincent-St. Mary team to its third Ohio state crown in four seasons.

Both on and off the court, the 18-year-old called "King James," a nickname scripted on the outside of his Nikes last night, had his every move scrutinized this season.

Last night at MCI Center, which was buzzing long before tip-off, the player most came to see didn't disappoint.

After missing his first two shots, he got on the board with a layup, and things flowed from there.

He put down a resounding one-handed slam, then went up and jammed Gary Irvin's pass off the backboard to give the Black Team a 15-12 lead. He had it going from the outside, too, knocking down two threes after the Silver Team had taken a 20-18 lead.

His third three-pointer of the half increased the Black Team's lead to 34-28, and then James started flexing the all-around game that has NBA scouts drooling. Seconds after throwing down his second windmill of the half, he threw a nifty alley-oop pass to Brandon Foust, a 6-6 forward who is headed to Oklahoma.

At the half, the Black Team led 54-50, and James' stat sheet was filling up fast. He had 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one blocked shot and one steal.

The James show continued in the second half as he hit fadeaway jumpers on two straight possessions, then leaned in and hit a bank shot to give his team a 73-68 edge.

However, thanks largely to Brown, the Silver team took an 85-83 lead.

"The first half, the coach told me to let the game come to me and I was just out there trying to pass the ball," said Brown. "In the second half, I just knew that I had to run the floor and play my game."

Brown knocked down a three-pointer, then fed Maryland signee Ekene Ibekwe (seven points) for a dunk. Brown then led an 8-0 run for the Silver Team after James hit on a reverse layup. The run, which included two dunks by Brown - one off a sweet behind the back pass from Paul - gave the Silver Team a 102-94 lead with 2:45 left.

James, who logged a game-high 34 minutes, went cold in the game's final minutes. But he did throw down a hard follow-up dunk with four seconds left.

The slam didn't help much as the Silver Team led 106-102, but it did provide quite an exclamation point for one dynamic high school career.

"If it would have been at St. Vincent-St. Mary ending my career with a loss, I'd have been upset," James said. "But I just came out here to have fun. I'm 2-1 in all-star games and Shannon has wanted one, so I got him."

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